Giant puffball mushrooms are easily identifiable, widely distributed, and delicious. They pop up during late summer and early fall in timber, meadows, fields, and even yards across much of North America. If you find a large (anywhere from the size of a baseball to bigger than a basketball), white, fleshy mushroom with no gills and no stem, it’s most likely a giant puffball.
To be absolutely sure, however, always cut your giant puffballs open vertically and check the flesh. If it’s pure white and soft with a thin outer skin, it’s both safe to eat and not past its prime. Once puffballs mature, they start to brown and develop spores inside and are no longer good to eat.
These shrooms are delicious and lend themselves to a variety of preparations. You can simply sauté them in butter with a little salt and pepper but, since a single mushroom can yield 10 pounds of edible flesh, you might want to get creative.
Recently, one of our culinary contributors, Rick Matney, brought a few puffballs to the office and showed us a particularly unique use for these massive mushrooms—as pizza crusts.
These aren’t thin, crispy, cracker-type crusts, but they’re delicious, and the mushroom flavor is more subtle than you might expect. Several folks in the office had no idea that they weren’t eating traditional, bread-based crust—a bonus if you or someone you know is eating gluten free.
With just a couple of puffballs, we had enough pizza to feed the entire office. Since this recipe only uses the large rounds from the center of the mushrooms, we fried up the ends into puffball mozzarella sticks as a side dish.
Feature image via Bryan Gregson
- 1 giant puffball mushroom
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup pizza sauce (either homemade or store bought)
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella (more if you like your pizza cheesy)
- Pizza toppings of your choice
- Preheat oven or pellet grill to 425 degrees. Slice a large puffball mushroom into ¾-inch-thick rounds. Brush rounds on both sides with olive oil. Lightly coat the tops of rounds with pizza sauce, then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.
- Add toppings of your choice. We used venison Italian sausage (fully cooked), chopped red peppers, and chopped red onion, but you can use any pizza toppings. Sprinkle with more shredded mozzarella.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and just starting to brown. Remove from oven or grill and let cool for 5-10 minutes.